The Age of Innocence and the Great Gatsby
The films, The Age of Innocence and The Great Gatsby are stories based in the Jazz Age, which focus on various themes such as politics and romance, and the effect they had on the public during that time. The Middle Ages was a period characterized by Jazz music and the disintegration of the American dream. Romance was a prominent theme in these films and the aim of these analysis is to consider the relationships between the characters, their translation of relationships and the consequences of their choices and actions.
Martin Scorsese film, The Age of Innocence tells the story of a young lawyer Newland Archer who falls in love with his fiancée’s cousin, the scandalous Countess Ellen Olenska, and the challenges their romance encounters. Archer was set to marry May Welland, an upper-class woman admired and respected by many in the New York society when she introduced him to her cousin Ellen at an opera in New York. Ellen’s repute in New York was tinted much to her dismay, since most people believed that she was too liberal a thinker who did not value the moral fabric of the society they lived in. Ellen had filed for a divorce with her husband and this lowered society’s opinion of her. Archer was sent by his boss to convince Ellen to cancel the divorce but begun to think more critically about the ingrained social views when he realized how miserable she was in her marriage. Their friendship blossomed and with time, they fell in love. In an attempt to cover up his feelings for Ellen, Archer tried to convince May that they have an earlier wedding but she did not accept the offer until later. Their marriage was successful but Archer could not manage to rid himself of his feelings for Ellen. She left town after she learnt of May’s pregnancy despite having strong feelings for the newly wed Archer. This was the last time they saw each other in their lives.
The movie, The Great Gatsby narrates the tale of characters living in a lavish neighborhood in New York. Jay Gatsby is a mysterious rich tycoon who threw extravagant parties every weekend in his mansion in order to gain the attention of his former romance Daisy Buchanan, now wife of Tom Buchanan. When Nick Carraway, Diasy’s cousin, moved into the neighborhood, Gatsby confronted him and requested him to arrange for a meeting between himself and Daisy. Since Nick admired Gatsby greatly, he agreed to set up the meeting and the two were able to rekindle their old romance. At a luncheon held at the Buchanan’s house, Tom noticed how Gatsby stared at Daisy and realized that Gatsby was in love with her. Although Tom himself was unfaithful, he was deeply outraged by this realization. Tom related to Daisy that Gatsby amassed his wealth through bootlegging and this asserted her allegiance to Tom. As Nick and Tom drove through the ‘Valley of Ashes’, they realized that Gatsby’s car had hit and killed Myrtle (Tom’s lover) instantly. They rushed back to Long Island and learned that Daisy drove the car when the accident happened and that Gatsby intended to take the blame to protect her (Van 160). When George (Myrtle’s husband) learns of her sudden death, he shoots and kills Gatsby assuming that the driver of the car must have been Myrtle’s lover. He then fatally shoots himself. Nick arranged a small funeral for Gatsby soon afterwards, which was attended by few. He reflects that the American dream had disintegrated into a pursuit of wealth rather than that of happiness, just as Gatsby’s quest for Daisy was founded on the same flawed principles.
The protagonists in these films are both involved in romantic relationships that did not take flight in the end. Although this arose from different factors, their end situation may be blamed on their choices and actions. Scorsese uses this romance film to bring out different issues that existed in the society of medieval times. Divorce was looked down upon and this explains society’s low regard of the Countess Elle even though her divorce was justifiable. Elle was married to a foreigner who was used to the scandalous European lifestyle and his infidelity was the precursor to their impending divorce. Although the characters in both films do not consummate their love in the end, they struggle to spend time together and revel in every moment they spend together. Archer is intoxicated and dazzled by Ellen’s staggering beauty. “Each time I see you, you happen to me all over again,” he says (Wharton 70). Gatsby cannot stop staring at Daisy with such undisguised passion that it catches the attention of a jealous Tom. Gatsby goes to the extent of befriending an unsuspecting Carraway in order to use him to get to Daisy. Their romance had been halted when Gatsby went to war and despite being aware that Daisy was married, he still wished to rebuild their relationship (Bloom 39).
In his film, Baz Luhrmann relates romance to the greed for money and material possession. Daisy refused to marry Gatsby before he went to war because he was poor. Gatsby on the other hand worked hard and got involved in the lucrative bootlegging business to acquire his wealth and woo Daisy back into his life. Gatsby’s extravagant weekend parties were merely a means of luring Daisy rather than for fun time. Carraway realized this and stated that America’s dream of happiness had turned into an unending quest for wealth and that Gatsby’s dream for Daisy had been corrupted by this distorted notion of romance (West and Fitzgerald 65). The characters in the film are greatly affected by the choices they make. Their end situation is a direct result of their decisions and actions. In the film, The Age of Innocence, Ellen Olenska left New York without Archer’s prior knowledge when she learns that May is expecting. In another scene, Archer convinced May to push their wedding to an earlier date thinking that this would suppress his feelings for Ellen. Although he married May, his feelings for Elle remained etched in his mind even in old age. In the film, The Great Gatsby, Daisy resolved to marry Tom instead of waiting for Gatsby to return from war. When Daisy accidentally hit and killed Myrtle, Gatsby took the blame in order to protect Daisy. This however ended tragically when George killed Gatsby since he assumed that the driver of the car was Myrtle’s lover (Bloom 126).
films are based in the Jazz Age in New
York, which described a period of political and
social chaos in American history. The period was marked by prosperity and
wealth. People spent money almost solely for the purpose of recreational gain.
The characters in the film lived lavishly and extravagantly. The characters
lived in posh neighborhoods and drove expensive cars. This great dependence for
wealth corrupted their morals and tinted their view of love and relationships.
The major difference however between the two films, in relation to romance of
the main protagonists is that in the film The
Great Gatsby, romance is materialized and in the movie The Age of Innocence, romance can only be possible if the society
accepts it (Wharton 23). The films have well-developed themes of romance but represent
a world with skewed value systems about love and relationships. The
consequences of the characters’ actions encourage their audience to take an
inventory of their lives and in turn make the right choices concerning the
issues in question. The characters’ judgment was clouded by fame and money.
Although they were susceptible to their emotions and feelings, their method of
expression was questionable.
Bloom, H. The Great Gatsby. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2003. Print.
Van, K. S. Cliffsnotes Wharton’s; The Age of Innocence. New York: J. Wiley, 2003. Print.
West, C., Fitzgerald F. S. The Great Gatsby. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Wharton, E. Age of Innocence, The Webster’s German Thesaurus Edition. ICON Group, 2006. Print.